Saturday, May 5, 2007

Seed #1 - Three Cotyledons, not Four

This morning, the seed leaves had opened up as I had expected, but there were three instead of four. It turns out that there may be anywhere from three to six, with four being the most common. Looks like this little guy is special! The National Park Service has a great page on Giant Sequoia development if you're interested.

By nighttime, the stem had straightened out a bit more, as the seed leaves started pointing upward. I should start to see secondary leaves in about 2 weeks.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Seed #1 Update - Cotyledons!

One day later, and look at the progress. The four cotyledons (embryonic leaves) have started to open up as the stem is bending upward from the soil.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Say Hello to My Little Friends!

The mailman made me sweat it out a day longer than I was hoping, but my thirteen seedlings arrived today. To recap, I ordered three seedlings from Welker's 2005 crop, and ten smaller ones from their 2006 crop. Impressive shipping job - they rolled each of the seedlings up in newspaper, and bundled them closely together in a small package. There were no problems with the seedlings after their four day, cross-country journey. The soil in the tubes was still moist, and the leaves hadn't lost any of their color.

Following Welker's instructions, I quickly transplanted the seedlings from their soil tubes into pots and gave them a little water bath to help them get situated. I gotta say, they're way 'cuter' than I expected. The leaves are firm, but not prickly, and the older ones had already grown some flaky bark. I'm going to hold off about a week before using fertilizer, and then follow up every 10-14 days as suggested by the product's label.

In partial shade, sequoias will grow tall quickly, but in full sun, they grow fuller. I can wait for height, but fullness is pretty important to me.

Sequoias are the fastest growing of any conifer, or cone-bearing seed plant. Under ideal conditions, they may see growth of up to six feet by their third year! And, once established, they should grow up to two inches thicker (one-inch growth ring) each year. Here on my deck, they'll receive a good portion of sunlight throughout the day.

Preparing the Babies' Rooms...

With thirteen little seedlings in a on the way, it was time to set up their homes for the next 2-3 years. I'm going to keep the seedlings in plastic 5/4 gallon pots of soil/sand mixture, fertilizing them bi-weekly with a soluble 24-8-16 mixture from Welker's Nursery, designed especially for potted giant sequoias.

For the soil mixture, I combined all that I had read online with some small changes to cut costs. It's very important for the soil to be well-drained, so I filled the bottom 1 1/2 inches of the pot with drainage rock. The soil is a mixture of roughly half tree & shrub planting mix and half cheap potting soil, along with about 1/8 sand mixed in for drainage (I'm aware that doesn't add up to 1, but am too lazy to do anything about it).

Seed #1 - A Sprout So Soon?

To my complete surprise, after only six days in the greenhouse, seed #1 poked through the soil today! It shouldn't be long before it stands up and shows its cotyledons. Don't get too excited, it's not as dirty as it sounds... Cotyledon is just a fancy name for each of the first four embryonic leaves, or seed leaves.

This little guy's a real exhibitionist. None of the other seeds have even shown their radicles yet.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

First Germination! Meet Seed #1

Most reasonable people would be able to check their seeds just once a week. Unfortunately, I can't go a day without peeking to see if any of the seeds has 'hatched' yet, sprouting its embryonic root, or radicle. I didn't expect to see any action for the first few weeks, especially since I didn't stratify the seeds first in the refrigerator for a month like most resources suggested.

Well, I was happily surprised. After nine days in its wet, unbleached coffee filter, one of my original fifteen seeds (now known as seed #1) sprouted its millimeter-long, white radicle. Because I folded the coffee filter like Shoot recommended (covering the seeds with one fold on one side, three on the other), I was able to see the radicle by holding the coffee filter baggie up to the light (second from the left in the photo).

In keeping with Shoot's Blog entry, I carefully removed the seed from the coffee filter, placing it in this simple greenhouse seed starter kit I bought at Lowes. I used starter soil, making sure it was wet and that the radicle is pointing downwards. I then buried the seed only slightly, keeping it about 1/4 inch below the surface. The greenhouse kit comes with a clear plastic cover which will keep the seeds warm, allowing sunlight and retaining moisture.

Now's the tough part... waiting. Hopefully this early germination wasn't a fluke, and more are on the way shortly. In the meantime, I've put the mini-greenhouse away in the corner of my kitchen where it can avoid direct sunlight. I'll need to check on it every day to make sure the soil doesn't dry out, killing the little giant before he has a chance.

Getting Started...

Most of the reading out there tells you about the trees in the wild, out in California. I had a hard time finding a good how-to out there for growing these trees from seeds on your own. Then I found Shoot's Blog, Growing giant sequoias in pots. In his post, he describes in pretty good detail how to germinate the seeds, grow them in cel-packs, and move them into pots as they get bigger.

It seemed doable, so I ordered seeds from two places, the first 15 from the Catalpa Tree Seed Company through LocalHarvest for $13. After doing some more shopping, I found these to be really expensive. I tried canceling the order, but was too late. Their customer service offered to refund the cost and said not to worry about shipping the seeds back. So, for customer service, they're great. In a few months I'll be able to see if they're worth the high cost, but in the meantime, I bought 100 seeds from the Whatcom Seed Company for about $7.

Following Shoot's Blog post, I first soaked the seeds in a glass of water overnight, then put them in a damp, unbleached coffee filter in a ziplock bag, and kept them in the dark. For my first batch, I left the seeds to sit on top of the water. In my next batch, I folded them up in a coffee filter, and made sure they were underwater all night, not just sitting on top like in the above photo.

Okay, So I'm a big Science Geek

So like all other science geeks, I anxiously awaited Discovery Channel's Planet Earth program in HDTV. In the episode Forests: Towering Trees, Falling Leaves, they showed scientists ascending on rope up the biggest trees in the world on the Pacific Coast. The tallest are the Coast Redwood, the biggest are the Giant Sequoia.

I had a thought that it'd be fun... and, really funny... to plant a Giant Sequoia in my back yard. The thought of a 3 million pound, 30-foot diameter, 300-foot tall tree behind a town home still cracks me up! Of course it'll never get that big, but let me have my fun :)

So I did some reading to see if it was even possible to grow one here in southeastern Pennsylvania. Well, I was surprised to find that one of the East Coast's tallest Giant Sequoias wasn't too far from here, in the Tyler Arboretum. So that weekend, my wife and I went out there, and I took this photo of her standing next to it. Further reading confirmed that luckily, I'm in a Goldilocks zone where it's not too cold in the winters, and not too warm in the summer.

So, that was a couple weeks ago. Since then, I ordered over 100 seeds and 13 seedlings. The original idea was to grow these from seeds; the one and two-year-old seedlings were ordered as an afterthought, just in case the seeds thing didn't work out as well as I had hoped.

I'm a week into this project with my first seed germinating a couple days ago, and my seedlings shipping tomorrow. I'm thought I'd share my fun with anyone else out there that thinks this would be a fun project. I bet most people are like I was a couple weeks ago - not knowing that it's actually possible to grow a Giant Sequoia in your back yard!